This quick and Easy Chicken Tikka Masala Recipe will rival the one from your favorite Indian Restaurant! Tender, juicy chicken pieces are cooked in a delicious, creamy tomato masala that's perfect for dipping your naan in. All this with just 20 minutes of prep and 40 minutes of cooking time.
This Easy Chicken Tikka Masala Recipe is, in many ways, a mysterious dish. There are as many variations of the recipe as there are stories of its origins. Similar and often confused with butter chicken, Chicken Tikka Masala originated in Britain, not India or Pakistan.
The most commonly known story about this recipe refers to a restaurant called Shish Mahal in Glasgow, owned by a Pakistani immigrant, Ali Ahmed Aslam. A complaint by a customer led to a modification in an existing recipe, and this Easy Chicken Tikka Masala Recipe was born in the 1970s.
Today, it is one of the most popular entrees on the menus of Indian restaurants, and India and Britain each have their unique versions of it.
Why you'll love this recipe
- Better than takeout - Trust me! Once you cook this recipe, you'll never reach for the takeout menu again! It's that good!
- Four different cooking techniques - Grill it, Bake it, Air fry it, or prep it in the grill pan! Pick the most convenient method for you!
- Adjustable spice levels - Cooking this recipe at home allows you to adjust the salt and spices to your level of perfection!
- There are many great menu pairing options - This recipe is a great addition to any menu, and there are many ways to pair it with other sides and mains. Some of my favorites are basmati rice, easy moong masoor dal, and oven-baked seekh kebab.
- Chicken - While any type of boneless chicken will do, I'm a fan of tenderloins. I find the breasts too dry and the thighs too fatty for my taste. Tenderloins require minimal cleaning and prepping, cook very quickly, and are very moist and juicy.
- Yogurt - Full-fat plain yogurt helps tenderize the chicken and is essential to the marinade.
- Lemon - Fresh lemon juice further tenderizes and flavors the chicken.
- Kashmiri chili powder - Kashmiri chili powder is mild in taste but bold in color, adding to the gorgeous color of this easy chicken tikka masala recipe.
- Beetroot powder - Most Tikka masalas served in restaurants have some food coloring added to them. While not essential, it does improve the presentation of the final dish. I prefer to use beetroot powder, finding it a healthier option than red food dye.
- Amchur powder - Amchur powder is one of my favorite ingredients and is used in many of my recipes, such as easy chicken tikka boti, hariyali green chicken tikka, or my spicy masala smashed potatoes. This dried mango powder adds a delicious tang to the easy chicken tikka masala recipe.
- Cooking Oil - This recipe will work with any neutral cooking oil with a high smoke point, such as canola, avocado, sunflower, or peanut.
- Onion - A diced medium yellow onion is best for its neutral taste and color in most South Asian recipes.
- Tomatoes - Strained tomatoes are the best for this recipe, as they result in a very smooth curry. However, if you can't source them or prefer a slightly chunkier texture, you can use chopped tomatoes and slightly blend the curry.
- Heavy Whipping Cream - I like to use a generous amount of this ingredient as it gives the chicken tikka masala a beautiful finish. Feel free to use less if you'd like, but after multiple recipe tests, I found that the 1 cup of cream at the end was the perfect quantity.
- Cilantro - The perfect garnish for any dish. Don't skimp on this final garnish - a little goes a long way!
Please see the recipe card at the bottom of this post for the complete list of ingredients, measurements, and recipe instructions.
Substitutions & variations
- Don't blend your sauce - Many people like a slightly chunky texture to their easy chicken tikka masala recipe to differentiate it from butter chicken. If that's you, don't blend the sauce.
- Use cashew cream - This is a healthy alternative for everyone who wants to enjoy this recipe without all the heavy cream. For those on a dairy-free diet, it allows you to cook and eat a favorite at home. Try how to make cashew cream for a great and easy recipe.
- Use fresh tomatoes - Making a tomato puree at home is so easy. I quarter and steam my tomatoes, then run them in a blender with the liquid they release. This can be done in bulk when tomato prices are low, and the tomato puree can be frozen in portions using souper cubes.
- Add some methi - Many people love this dried herb, known as fenugreek, added to their chicken tikka masala. If you're a fan, add some.
- Try a one-pot version - It's best to marinate and cook the chicken separately and then add it to the masala, but if you're in a hurry, prepare the masala and then poach the chicken all in one pot.
- Cook the chicken using an alternate method - Baking, air frying, grilling, and using a stovetop grill pan are all good options. Grilling the chicken outdoors on a grill is definitely the best option, but the grill pan yields the best results of all the indoor methods and is convenient. Baking and air frying are great options in a rush, as they require much less effort. For baking, cook at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 20 minutes and add the chicken to the masala straight after. For Air frying, cook for 10 minutes at 350 degrees Fahrenheit and then add it to the curry.
The marinade for the chicken is very simple: combine all the ingredients, toss the chicken in the mixture, and set aside for at least 30 minutes. You can even do this the night before so you're ready to start cooking the next day.
- First step - Preheat some oil on a grill pan and saute the marinated chicken pieces in small batches.
- Second step - Don't overcook the chicken; cook it long enough for a slight char.
- Third step - Depending on the size of your pan, it should take 2-3 batches to finish cooking the meat. Adjust the heat as necessary so you don't burn the meat.
- Fourth step - Set all the chargrilled pieces aside till you need them.
- Fifth step - Preheat some oil in a wide skillet and saute the diced onions. Once the edges turn slightly brown, add the garlic and ginger paste and saute for 30 seconds.
- Sixth step - Add the tomatoes and mix well, scraping all the browned bits off the bottom of the pan.
- Seventh step - Add the spice powders next and saute for a few minutes.
- Eighth step - Puree this mixture using an immersion or regular blender and leave it chunky or blend it smooth as per your preference.
- Ninth step - Sautee the mixture to blend the onions and tomatoes more.
- Tenth step - You'll know your mixture is ready when it starts to leave the sides of the pan and is in a small, cohesive blend.
- Eleventh step - Add your grilled chicken and mix just enough to coat the chicken pieces with this spiced onion and tomato mixture.
- Twelfth step - Add a few tablespoons of water to make a thick gravy.
- Thirteenth step - Add about 2 cups of water to the chicken mixture and mix well.
- Fourteenth step - Stir till you have a smooth curry. Cook on medium till it begins to simmer.
- Fifteenth step - Add the 1 cup of cream, mix, cover, and simmer for 10 minutes.
- Sixteenth step - Uncover and check that the chicken is cooked through and the curry is the consistency you want. Garnish with cilantro and enjoy!
- Use chicken tenderloins for best results - Slightly more expensive than chicken breasts and thighs; these are the best cuts for this recipe. Since this is a special recipe, I highly recommend using this cut.
- Use a grill pan to get a good char on the chicken. This cooking technique worked best for the best results, and I highly recommend you stick to it for the juiciest chicken tikka masala.
- Poach the grilled chicken in the sauce for best results - Parcook the chicken in the grill pan, but continue to cook it by poaching it in the chicken tikka masala for best results. This method guarantees you'll have the juiciest, most flavorful chicken.
- Make sure to have plenty of sauce - The sauce is the best part, whether you're eating your chicken tikka masala with rice or naan. So don't skimp on this part of the recipe. More is better.
- Don't skimp on the cream - It takes this recipe to the next level. You can use cashew cream per the link provided or heavy whipping cream, but make sure to use the right quantity.
Masala refers to a dry or wet spice blend used to make curry. Curry, on the other hand, refers to the finished product, the gravy that will be consumed. It can be a wet curry, like aloo gosht, or a dry curry, like aloo palak.
Chicken tikka masala is cooked in oil instead of ghee or butter. It is spicier than butter chicken and has a slightly textured gravy compared to the silky smooth one of butter chicken.
Store your leftover chicken tikka masala in an airtight container in the fridge for 3-4 days or in the freezer for 5-6 months.
Other chicken recipes you may like
For more Pakistani recipes like this, check out 20 popular Pakistani recipes. If you decide to try this recipe, Please don't forget to leave a rating and comment below! If you take a picture then tag me on Instagram! Thank You!
Easy Chicken Tikka Masala Recipe
- 1 lb chicken
- ½ cup full fat yogurt
- 1 lemon (large)
- 1 tbsp garlic paste
- 1 tbsp ginger paste
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp Kashmiri chili powder
- 1 tsp red chili powder
- 1 tsp cumin powder
- 1 tsp amchur powder
- ¼ tsp beetroot powder
- marinated chicken
- ¼ cup cooking oil
- 1 onion (large)
- 1 tsp garlic paste
- 1 tsp ginger paste
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp cumin powder
- 1 tsp coriander powder
- 1 tsp chili powder
- 1 tsp Kashmiri chili powder
- ¼ tsp garam masala
- ¼ tsp beetroot powder
- 1 28 oz. can tomato puree (see notes)
- 1 cup heavy whipping cream
- ¼ cup cilantro
- Cut the chicken tenderloins into 1-inch cubes, cleaning any fat, if necessary.
- Prepare the ginger and garlic paste using a mortar and pestle. (see notes)
- Mix this paste with all of the other ingredients listed to create a paste.
- Mix the chicken and the marinade, ensuring the chicken is well covered, and set aside for a minimum of 30 minutes. (see notes)
- After this, chargrill the chicken on a grill pan, cooking just enough to sear the meat on all sides. Set aside till needed. (see notes)
- Heat the cooking oil and saute the chopped onion in it.
- Once the onion is a medium golden brown, add the garlic and ginger paste and saute for 30 seconds.
- Add the tomato puree next and mix well.
- Add all the spices and roast the mixture until all the water evaporates. (see notes)
- Add the chargrilled chicken and saute till it's all coated in the tomato masala.
- Add some water to create a nice thick consistency and mix well till you have a cohesive mixture.
- Add in the heavy whipping cream and bring to a light simmer.
- Cook till you have the desired consistency to your masala, garnish with cilantro, and serve.